Maya Harris

Maya Harris
Maya Harris at Kamala Harris inauguration as Attorney General.jpg
Harris at Kamala Harris's inauguration as Attorney General in 2014
Maya Lakshmi Harris

(1967-01-30) January 30, 1967 (age 53)
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (BA)
Stanford University (JD)
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1998)
ChildrenMeena Harris
Parent(s)Donald J. Harris
Shyamala Gopalan
RelativesKamala Harris (sister)
P. V. Gopalan (grandfather)

Maya Lakshmi Harris (born January 30, 1967) is an American lawyer, public policy advocate, and television commentator. She is a political analyst for MSNBC[1] and in 2015 was appointed as one of three senior policy advisors to lead the development of an agenda for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.[2] She was formerly a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.[3] From 2008, until she took her current position, Harris was Vice President for Democracy, Rights and Justice at the Ford Foundation. Prior to joining the Ford Foundation, she served as the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California.[4][5] Before joining the ACLU, the former law school dean (Lincoln Law School of San Jose) was a Senior Associate at PolicyLink. Harris has authored two publications which include a report highlighting community-centered policing practices nationwide and an advocacy manual for police reform. She served as campaign chairwoman for her sister Kamala Harris's 2020 campaign for president until the campaign's suspension. Her sister, Kamala Harris is the Vice President-elect of the United States.

Early life and education

Born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, Harris grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and Montreal, Quebec. She is the daughter of Shyamala Gopalan Harris (1938–2009), a breast cancer researcher who emigrated from Chennai (formerly Madras), India in 1960; and Donald Harris, a Jamaican-born Stanford University economics professor, now emeritus.[6] Her maternal grandfather, P.V. Gopalan was a career civil servant with federal Government of India.[7] She and her older sister, Kamala, were raised with beliefs from Baptist and Hindu faiths.[8] At the age of eight, with her sister, she persuaded the management of their apartment building to open an unused courtyard as a place for children to play.[9] At 17, she gave birth to her only child, Meena Harris, whose biological father is white. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989. That year, she enrolled in Stanford Law School. While at Stanford, she was active with the East Palo Alto Community Law Project, serving as Co-Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Clinic and Co-Chair of the Student Steering Committee.[10]


After receiving her J.D. degree from Stanford Law School, Harris served as a law clerk for United States District Court Judge James Ware in the Northern District of California. In 1994 Harris joined the San Francisco law firm of Jackson Tufts Cole & Black, LLP, working in civil and criminal litigation. In 1997 the Young Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association honored her with the Junius W. Williams Young Lawyer of the Year Award. The following year, she was named one of the Top 20 Up and Coming Lawyers Under 40 by the San Francisco Daily Journal.[11]

Harris served as a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She also taught contract law at New College of California School of Law and was Dean at Lincoln Law School of San Jose.


Harris was a Senior Associate at PolicyLink, a national research and action institute dedicated to advancing economic and social equity. In that capacity, she organized conferences around police-community relations[12] and advocated for police reform,[13] authoring Organized for Change: The Activist's Guide to Police Reform.[14]

Harris served as Executive Director of the Northern California American Civil Liberties Union. In her role as the head of the largest affiliate office of the ACLU, Harris directed and coordinated litigation, media relations, lobbying, and grassroots organizing work. "The Project's priorities are eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system and achieving educational equity in California public schools."[15] In 2003, Harris was the Northern California director for No on 54, the campaign to defeat Proposition 54, which sought to end affirmative action in the state.[16]

Harris authored the essay "Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing", which appeared in the 2006 book The Covenant with Black America.[15]

In 2012 Harris was Vice President for Democracy, Rights and Justice at the Ford Foundation. One of the issues she addresses through her position is the problem of child brides.[9]

Personal life

Harris has been married to Tony West since July 1998. Maya and Tony were both in the class of 1992 at Stanford Law School, where they became friends but did not start a relationship until after graduation.[17][18] Her daughter Meena Harris graduated from Stanford in 2006 and from Harvard Law School in 2012.[17][19]


  1. ^ "Tuesday's Juice". Politico. June 20, 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  2. ^ Nather, David (April 14, 2015). "Hillary Clinton names top three wonks for campaign". Politico.
  3. ^ Horwitz, Sari (September 3, 2014). "Tony West, third-ranking official at Justice Department, to step down". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ "Maya Harris, ACLU-NC Executive Director". ACLU. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
  5. ^ Ifill, Gwen (2009). The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (1st ed.). New York: Anchor Books. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-7679-2890-8.
  6. ^ "PM Golding congratulates Kamala Harris - daughter of Jamaican - on appointment as California's First Woman Attorney General". Jamaica Information Service. December 2, 2010. Archived from the original on January 15, 2012. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Dr. Shyamala G. Harris". San Francisco Chronicle. March 22, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2017.
  8. ^ Owens, Donna M. (January 13, 2016). "California Attorney General Kamala Harris Plans to be America's Next Black Female Senator". Essence. Retrieved June 11, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Dzieza, Josh (March 10, 2012). "Legal Power Sisters Credit Mom". The Daily Beast.
  10. ^ "Officially Speaking". Student Lawyer. Law Student Division, American Bar Association. 27 (2): 16. December 1998.
  11. ^ Equal Justice Society; Protecting Equally: Dismantling the Intent Doctrine & Healing Racial Wounds, Maya Harris
  12. ^ Hafertepen, Eric (July 5, 2001). "News: We Have to Talk About This". CityBeat.
  13. ^ Prendergast, Jane (June 2, 2001). "Researchers urge police reforms". The Cincinnati Enquirer.
  14. ^ "PolicyLink Guide Offers Innovative Strategies for Police Reform Advocates". PolicyLink. April 8, 2004. Archived from the original on July 13, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  15. ^ a b "Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing". The Covenant with Black America (1st ed.). Chicago: Third World Press. 2006. pp. 71–95. ISBN 978-0-88378-277-4.
  16. ^ "Prop. 54 soundly beaten: The tide turned when foes of the ballot measure shifted gears from bias to health care". The Sacramento Bee. October 8, 2003.
  17. ^ a b Driscoll, Sharon (May 17, 2010). "Tony and Maya: Partners in Public Service". Stanford Lawyer. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  18. ^ Horwitz, Sari (February 27, 2012). "Justice Dept. lawyer Tony West to take over as acting associate attorney general". Washington Post. Retrieved June 11, 2017.
  19. ^ "Meena Harris '12". Harvard Law Today.

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